Lending a hand in times of crisis

After completing a Bachelor of Behavioural Science at La Trobe University, Dr Katherine Franklin has gone on to provide life-changing healthcare for children in conflict zones. She is a 2017 John Monash Scholar and will begin studies at the University of Oxford this year. (Photo credit: Mariam Alimi)

La Trobe University alumnus Dr Katherine Franklin is now used to receiving call-ups for overseas assignments.

First, the Advanced Pediatric Trainee was called to Afghanistan, where she worked in a maternity clinic run by international medical organisation Médecins Sans Frontiéres (MSF), or Doctors Without Borders.

The bustling hospital in western Kabul – and the daily commute from a secure compound – was her first foray into practicing medicine in areas of conflict and crises.

“It was definitely a different setting than anywhere else I’d worked,” Katherine said. “MSF was running the biggest maternity hospital in the area, so there were 300-350 births a week, often two women to a bed - it was extremely busy."

After seeing the difference she and other medical workers could make in underprivileged areas, Katherine knew she was on the right career path. So when MSF offered Katherine another placement in South Sudan last year, she didn’t hesitate.

For four months she was based in a pediatric hospital at the edge of a sprawling camp for people displaced by South Sudan’s devastating civil war. MSF has played a vital role in treating victims of the protracted conflict, and Katherine said it was difficult to imagine what would happen if the medical organisation was not involved.

“We were working with the most underprivileged children in the world right now,” Katherine said. “But the level of healthcare that MSF provides is top-level in that situation because of the infrastructure they have behind them.”

Katherine said she continues to draw from the skills she gained from the Bachelor of Behavioural Science (Psychology) articles and look at them differently. Research methodology is so important so I’m glad I was able to learn those skills,” she said.

“Statistics were a strong basis for my course at La Trobe which I’m also really grateful for, as well as the importance of seeing things from a mind-body perspective.”

A new chapter at the University of Oxford

Now, Katherine is off on an assignment of a different kind – a move to Oxford University to complete a Master in International Public Health and Tropical Medicine.

The opportunity to study at Oxford was made possible through the General Sir John Monash Foundation, which awards prestigious scholarships to people seeking solutions to the world’s most challenging problems.

Katherine said it was an honour to be named a John Monash scholar. “It’s such an impressive group of people doing really great things, so to be considered on their level is amazing,” she said.

She said her new studies would help prepare her for future work in the humanitarian sector.

Katherine is also looking forward to joining a rowing club at Oxford, a sport she embraced during her time at La Trobe. “I was heavily involved with the rowing club at La Trobe, and I have lifelong friends because of that. The social life and extra-curricular activities at La Trobe made it an experience I’ll never forget.”

About the John Monash Scholarships

The John Monash Scholarship, awarded by the General Sir John Monash Foundation, provides outstanding Australians with the opportunity to pursue their field of endeavor by studying at their choice of overseas institution, with the assistance of a generous financial endowment of up to $195,000 over three years.

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